Brown University’s $4.7 billion endowment’s unique approach to seek out returns has paid off, generating a 12.1% return this year. This according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.
The approach, which has included hiring private detectives to investigate money managers and backing unproven startup funds, has led to top results for Joseph Dowling over his seven-year run as manager. Brown’s return of 12.1% for this fiscal year was a top rate among college endowments—the median return of U.S. endowments in the same period was 2.6%—a tough act to follow for Dowling’s successor CIO Jane Dietze, who took the reins on July 1st of this year.
This was the second year in the row that Brown outperformed the endowments of Yale and Harvard, the article reports, noting that the performance “has proved crucial during the pandemic. Universities face increased student demand for financial aid and the costs of Covid-19 health measures while revenue from enrollment has shrunk.” Brown’s administration reportedly expects as much as a 13% deficit in its total operating budget for the current fiscal year, which it plans to cover through a combination of endowment withdrawals of up to $20 million and $700 million in bonds that the school issued this calendar year.
The article notes that Dowling has “built long-term relationships with Brown’s managers” and has “pushed the endowment to understand its managers in ways that go beyond pitchbooks.” Both Dowling and Dietze , it adds, “believe strong relationships with managers can lead to an early look at deals and a constant exchange of ideas.”